Part 4 out of 5
violence. Indeed, the mere fact of their own passing in the highly
polished cab with its wake of burned gas and Havana tobacco turned many
a smile into a scowl or a jeer.
Often the driver throttled his car to a snail's pace or brought it to a
full stop to avoid running over one of those children who, so far as
self-preservation goes, appear to be deaf, dumb, blind, and without
powers of locomotion; and during one of these halts a little girl,
walking slowly backward, her eyes upon another little girl who for no
apparent cause was making a series of malevolent faces at her, collided
with one of the tires and fell on her back directly in front of the
stationary car. Instantly she began to screech, and the street, hitherto
but scatteringly occupied, filled with raging people.
The driver from his seat, Bruce from one window, Savage from the other,
attempted to explain to deaf ears. Their voices were drowned in a
torrent of abuse.
Barbara, at first only exasperated by the stupidity of the crowd,
sitting very still and erect, had upon her face that expression of
bored contempt with which aristocrats in the French Revolution are said
to have gone to the guillotine. Then that was shouted in her ear which,
though but half, understood, turned her scarlet with anger.
Unfortunately Savage, hitherto patiently self-controlled, had heard the
compounded epithet hurled at Barbara, and in a moment his fighting blood
was beyond control, and he was out of the cab raining heavy blows upon a
bloated chalky-white face, and receiving worse than he gave from a dozen
fists and feet. Strong as a bull, always in training, his strength was
beaten and kicked from him in twenty seconds, and with Bruce and the
driver--who, bravely enough, if reluctantly, had leaped to his
assistance--things were no better.
A whistling, shrill and metallic, brought the fight to a sudden end. The
crowd drew back sullen and reluctant, no longer shouting and cursing,
but muttering, explaining, and discreet.
Barbara took from her lips the whistle which Kid Shannon had given her.
She was very white, but her eyes blazed with the light of success and
power. The bringing of the whistle had been an accident, the blowing it
an act of desperation: but perceiving the sudden effect of that blowing
she could not but feel that she had done something strategically good
and in the nick of time. Savage began to straighten his collar and
necktie, Bruce to nurse a sprained thumb. The second cab came up. Ely
the and Morton Haddon got out and, full of perplexity but not unamused,
fell to asking questions of their dishevelled friends. These, winded
and bruised, could give but an ejaculatory explanation, mostly of what
they would do to such and such a one if they could isolate him from his
fellow cutthroats for five minutes; and Blythe and Haddon, not bruised
and winded, told them to pull themselves together. Meanwhile the crowd
had disintegrated before the possible arrival of Kid Shannon; had
vanished like a lump of sugar in a cup of tea. Even the little child who
had been the cause of the uproar had disappeared. So a colony of
prairie-dogs vanishes into its burrows at the shadow of a hawk.
The short street was deserted save for the figure of a rapidly
approaching policeman. Why this guardian of the peace had not been upon
his beat during the fracas could have been best explained perhaps by the
proprietor of a disorderly house, from whom at the time he had been
levying a weekly stipend of lust money and a glass of beer. For his
lapse of duty, however, he made such amends as were possible. In short,
he took the numbers of both taxicabs, the names of their occupants, and
told them, with stern condescension, that they were now at liberty to
pursue their interrupted way.
But first Barbara received praise for having blown the whistle, and
Bruce and Savage were made to say repeatedly that they insisted on going
on with the evening's entertainment; that they were not really hurt, and
that they wouldn't think of being driven to a doctor. Everybody wanted
to know more about Kid Shannon, and in just what consisted the terror
and efficacy of his name. But Barbara could only say that he was a
friend of hers, and a sort of henchman of their host for the evening.
Then she said, smiling:
"I'm sorry he didn't come himself, but anyway his whistle is a perfectly
good whistle, and another time I'll know enough to blow it before
anybody gets hurt."
Mrs. Bruce insisted on having her husband ride with her, so Blythe took
his place in Barbara's cab, and they reached Marrow Lane without further
molestation. Indeed, it seemed as if rumor had gone ahead of them,
saying that they were not as other swells, but East-Siders in disguise,
integral parts of the master's organization, armed with the whistle of
his lieutenant. They were stared at, it is true, and commented upon, but
with awe now and childish admiration.
The door of Blizzard's house was opened for them by Kid Shannon.
"Why, Mr. Shannon," exclaimed Barbara, "I blew your whistle, and you
"And wasn't the whistling enough?"
He smiled the smile of a general who knows that his troops are in a
state of perfect discipline. "The boss is expecting you," he said.
"Please step right in."
A faint odor of roses greeted them.
One light, not strong, illuminated the legless man's face. Barbara and
her friends sat in half-darkness. Kid Shannon went out of the room on
tiptoe, closing the door softly behind him. Of Rose, crouched under the
key-board of the grand piano, her hands on the pedals, nothing could be
seen, owing to a grouping of small palms and flowers in pots. The stump
of Blizzard's right leg touched her shoulder. She was trembling. So was
Blizzard. He was trembling with stage fright; she with Blizzard fright.
His hands, thick with agile muscles and heavy as hams, though he had
just been soaking them in hot water, seemed powerless to him, and stiff.
He struck a chord, and it sounded to him not like the voices of a
musical instrument, but like a clattering together of tin dishes. This
enraged him. His self-consciousness vanished. Those ivory keys and
well-tempered wires had fooled him. He hated his piano. And he began to
punish it. The heavy hands, rising and falling with the speed and
strength of lightning strokes, produced a volume of tone which perhaps
no other player in the world could have equalled.
Blythe, a great amateur of music, had come in a sceptical mood. He now
sat more erect, his face, eyebrows raised, turned to Blizzard, his ears
recalling to him certain moments of Rubinstein's playing.
But Blizzard no longer hated his piano. It had stood up nobly to his
assault. It was a brave instrument, well-bred, a friend full of rare
qualities--for a friend to show off. And, the swollen veins in his
forehead flattening, he began to make his peace with his piano. It could
do more than shout and rage. It could sing like an angel in all
languages; it could be witty, humorous, heart-rending, heart-healing,
chaste, passionate, helpful, mischievous. And it could be wise and
eloquent. It could stand up for a friend, and explain his sins away, and
get him forgiven in high places.
And even as Blizzard thought, so he played. He was no longer conscious
of himself or his guests, not even of Barbara. As for Rose, she was
merely a set of pedals in perfect mechanical adjustment. He was not even
conscious of his thoughts. They came and went without deliberation, and
were expressed as they came and dismissed as they went in the terms of
his extraordinary improvisation.
But it came to this at last, that he thought only of beautiful things,
so that even his face was stripped of wickedness, and his fingers loosed
one by one the voices of angels, until it seemed as if the whole room
was full of them--all singing. And the singing died away to silence.
The legless man looked straight ahead of him into the dim room. Then,
smiling, his head a little on one side, he caressed his piano so that it
gave out Chopin's 7th Prelude, which, as all the world knows, is a
little girl who smiles because she is happy; and she is happy because
so many of the flowers in the garden are blue. It is not known why this
makes her happy, only that it does.
And forthwith he played Chopin and only Chopin: brooks and pools of
sound to which you did not listen, but in which you bathed. And in his
soul the legless man was playing only for Barbara, and only to Barbara.
And so powerful was this obsession that it stole out of him like some
hypnotic influence, affected the others, and gave him away. First Blythe
looked toward Barbara, not realizing why, then Haddon looked, then
Barbara felt the warm blood in her cheeks. She was troubled, unhappy,
touched. A man, his face full of unhappy yearning, his soul quick with
genius, was making love to her; asking her to forget his shortcomings,
to forgive his sins, to give him a hand upward out of the dark places
into the light. He followed her, always pleading, by brooks, into
valleys, through flowery meadows in the early morning, into solemn
churches, into groves of cypress flooded with moonlight.
[Illustration: And in his soul the legless man was playing only for
Blythe could have sworn that a woman sobbed, but his eyes, used by now
to the obscurity, told him that it was neither Mrs. Bruce nor Barbara.
The piano burst into a storm of sound, under cover of which Rose, still
at her post, torn with jealousy, continued to pedal at the direction of
her lord and master, and sobbed as if her heart would break. Devils
filled the room, whirling in mad dances; they screamed and yelled;
the souls of the damned screeched in torment; and the face of him who
invoked the inferno, swollen, streaming with sweat, the eyes glazed,
protruding, was the face of a madman.
Rose, for whom her master's playing had the eloquence and precision of
speech, forgot her jealousy in fear of those consequences which her
ill-timed sobbing must bring upon her. Her tears dried as in a desert
wind; her sobs ceased, and in a moment or two the madness was going out
of Blizzard's music and out of his face. He rested, preluded, and then
began to play Beethoven, quietly, with a pure singing tone, music of a
The jarred feelings of his audience were soothed. Into his own face
there stole a high-priest look. And when he had finished playing, this
look remained for a few moments. Then he laughed quietly and, speaking
for the first time, expressed the hope that he had not made them
listen too long.
He reached for the wall behind him, and turned a switch so that the room
became brightly lighted. Then, reluctantly, he came out from behind the
piano, swinging between his crutches, and leaving Rose to escape at the
first favorable opportunity. His descent from colossus to cripple had an
unpleasant effect. And the question, "How the deuce do you work the
pedals?" was jerked from Blythe, usually a most tactful person.
"Why," said Blizzard simply, "I have an assistant." He caught Barbara's
eye and reddened a little. "A young man who is musical and intelligent.
We have a system of signals, and--but I think there is a sort of thought
communication that comes of much rehearsing together. And in our best
moments we do pretty well. But sometimes when our minds are not tuned
together we make a dreadful hash of things."
He might have added: "At such times I drag her about by the hair and
beat her." But he didn't. He looked instead the picture of a very
patient man who makes the best of things.
"Whatever you do at times," said Barbara gently, "you have done wonders
to-night. But you know better than we do how good your playing is. So
what is the use of praising it--to you?"
She felt that he was her own private discovery--almost her property. And
knowing that her friends were still profoundly affected by his playing,
she was filled with honest pride. Her eyes flashed, her cheeks glowed.
"What did I tell you?" she exclaimed. "Was I right? Didn't I promise
that he would make good? Did he?"
She was delighted with Blizzard, delighted with herself, delighted with
the whole party. She had forgotten the madman face that he had showed.
She forgot that he was a cripple, a thing soured and wicked. She thought
of him only as a great genius, which she herself had discovered.
The childlike pleasure which she felt communicated itself to the
others, and Blizzard, escaping an ovation of honest praise, led them
into the next room, where, among palms and roses, such a supper was
spread as gamblers, the big men of the profession, spread for
The mere sight of the champagne-glasses loosened the men's tongues. Talk
flowed. Mrs. Bruce and Barbara, seated right and left of their host,
made much of his music and his hospitality. For once in his life he was
genuinely happy. He looked very handsome, very high-minded, very modest,
a man's man. Sitting, he was much taller than the others. You forgot
that, standing, he was but a dwarf. He towered at the head of his table,
his mind working in swift, good-natured, hospitable flashes. It was
obvious that he had been born a gentleman, and that he had never
"forgotten how." It was obvious, too, that he was a man of power and
position, who when he wished could spend money like a great lord, and
who was accustomed to give orders.
In his manner to Barbara there was (perhaps noticeable only to herself)
an air of long-proved friendship and a kind of guardianly tenderness,
and he managed somehow to convey to her that she had an immense
influence over him; that he looked to her for help--for inspiration.
The desire to make a great man of him invaded her mind. Her heart warmed
"I wonder," said Bruce suddenly, "where our wandering Wilmot is
"I drink to him," said the beggar quickly, "wherever he is, and wish
But the poison had been spilled on Barbara's evening. For three hours
she had not once thought of the man whom twelve hours ago she had really
wanted to marry. And her heart meanwhile had warmed and expanded toward
one who at best was a prodigiously successful crook and rascal, and she
was ashamed. But for all that neither the warmth nor the triumphant
sense of influence and conquest went out of her heart. And later, when
Mrs. Bruce said: "I really think we ought to go," Barbara, outwardly all
sweetness and agreement, was inwardly annoyed. She wanted very much to
stay, for she knew that the moment she was alone her conscience would
give her no peace, and that she would make resolutions which she would
not, judging from past experiences, be able to keep. She would resolve
to abandon her bust of Blizzard, resolve never to see the creature
again, since it seemed that he had in him power upon her
"Do we work to-morrow, Miss Ferris?"
The words, "No, I'm afraid not to-morrow," rose to her lips. The words,
"_Please,_ at the usual time," came out.
And she felt as if his will, not her own, had caused her to say those
words. Her heart gave a sudden leap of fear.
Barbara knew very well that she was doing wrong. Summer had descended,
blazing, upon the city. Without exception her friends had gone to the
country. Her father had gone to Colorado upon an errand of which for the
present he chose to make a mystery. She made a habit of lunching at the
Colony Club, and occasionally saw some friend or other who had run into
town for a face massage, a hair wave, a gown, or a hat. But the
afternoons and evenings hung very heavily upon her hands. So that she
got to living in and for her mornings at the studio. With the appearance
of Blizzard, clean, thoughtful, and forceful, her feelings of loneliness
and depression vanished. If her vitality was at low ebb, his was not.
The heat appeared to brace him, and he had the faculty of communicating
something of his own energy, so that it was not until she had finished
working and dismissed him that she was sensible of fatigue and
The man was on his best behavior. He could not but realize that he had
established an influence over her; that she was beginning to take him at
his own estimate of himself, and to believe in his pretended
aspirations. And while he credited her with no affection for himself, he
had the presumption to imagine that his maimed condition and his low
station in life no longer made the slightest difference to her, and that
finally her friendliness would turn into a warmer feeling. But if not,
he had but to wait until the maturity of his plans should throw the city
into chaos, when she would be at his mercy.
The hand which he had dealt himself was so full of high cards that the
occasional losing of a trick did not disturb him in the slightest. He
had through her father's hideous mistake a hold on Barbara's conscience.
As a personage whose power over certain sections of the city was
stronger than the law, he had a hold upon her imagination. As the
inspirer of her best work, he had a hold upon her gratitude. He had, or
thought he had, a chance to win her affection in open and equal
competition. And, highest card of all--ace of trumps--he had persuaded
her that her influence upon him was such that with all the strength of
remorse he was shaping his life toward high ideals.
In his heart she was usually, but not always, the first consideration.
Sometimes the passion of ambition overlapped the passion of love. And
sometimes he felt that he would forego the fruition of all his plans if
only by some miracle his legs could be restored to him.
But on the whole, he had reached a high-water mark of self-satisfaction.
He had found it easy to carry corruption into high places. A list of
those who were in his power--willing or unwilling--would have horrified
the whole nation. From O'Hagan in the West came reports that all went
well with the organization, and that Wilmot Allen was displaying genius
in teaching inexperienced Polacks to shoot.
On his walks through the city the legless man carried a high head, and
looked about him with the eye of a landlord. His imagination was so
strong that he had already the feelings of a genuine conqueror, and not
of a man confronted by the awful possibilities of failure. And by some
subtlety of mental communication Barbara was coming more and more into
this same opinion of him. And in realizing this, and in allowing their
relations to continue, she knew that she was doing wrong.
She compared her model with all the men she had known, always to
conclude that there was in him a sort of greatness utterly wanting in
the others. If he had revealed his plans to her, she would have believed
him not only capable of carrying them out, but sure to do so--if he
wished. He might be Satan fallen, but he was still a god. In the early
days of their association she had felt herself the important person of
the two, and her bust of him the most important thing in the world. He
and she would surely die, but the bust had a chance to live. But now she
had the feeling that the work was of less importance than the man; and
that she herself was an insignificant spoiled person of no importance
whatever. When Blizzard entered the studio she had the feeling that a
great and busy man was, out of pure good nature, wasting his time upon
an unknown artist. But she knew very well that such was not the case.
She knew that he came to the studio because she attracted him, and for
no other reason. And at times she felt keenly curious to know just how
much she attracted him, and the morbid wish, for which she hated
herself, of leading him into some sort of a declaration.
However unnecessary the hot waves of the New York summer may appear to
some people, they were never wasted on Bubbles. He had a passion for the
water, and to his love of swimming was added a passion for the
underworld gossip with which the piers of the East River reek in bathing
weather. For just as mice are more intimate with the details of houses
than landlords are, so the small boys of a city have the best
opportunities for being acquainted with its workings, and with the
intimate lives of its inhabitants. The street-boy's mind matures while
his body is still that of a child. Births and deaths are familiar
spectacles to him. He knows and holds of high import hundreds of things
which men have forgotten. He can see in the dark. He can hide in a
handful of shadow. And when he isn't overhearing on his own hook, he is
listening to what somebody else has overheard. Second-story men fear
him, lovers loathe him, and nature, who has been thwarted in her
intention that he should run in sweet meadows, sleep in fresh air, and
bathe in clean water, sighs over him.
It was so hot that the policeman whose duty and privilege it was to see
that no small boy cooled himself from Pier 31A, disappeared tactfully
into the family entrance of a water-front saloon. The city had many
laws which to this particular officer appeared unreasonable and which he
enforced only when he couldn't help himself. In men there is the need of
gambling and some other things. As for small boys, they _must_ play
baseball and they _must_ swim.
Bubbles went overboard at about three o'clock. There were twenty or
thirty boys of all sizes already in the water, and the addition of one
to the struggling group of wet heads was not to be noticed. Nor was the
disappearance of that head noticed, nor the fact that it appeared to
remain under water for nearly three-quarters of an hour, nor that when
it finally did emerge it looked on the whole as if it had seen a ghost.
Bubbles, it seems, was less interested in the waters around Pier 31A
than in the waters underneath. And for this reason: on the previous
night, while stripping for a swim, he had heard a muffled sound of
voices coming from directly under the pier, followed by a long subdued
roaring as of a load of earth being emptied into the water. Now, under
Harry West's tuition Bubbles had formed the habit of investigating
whatever he did not understand. And he wished very much to find out why
people should talk under piers at night, how they could get under Pier
31A except by swimming, and _if_ they were throwing earth overboard
_why_ they were doing so, and where they got the earth.
His head filled with vague and highly colored notions of a smugglers'
cave, his narrow lungs filled with air, Bubbles dove, swam between two
slimy barnacled piles, and came up presently in a dark, dank, stale,
gurgling region, wonderfully cool after the blazing sunlight which he
had just left.
Toward the shore the light that filtered between the supporting piles of
Pier 31A became less and less, until completely shut off by walls of
solid masonry. Into this darkness Bubbles swam with great caution,
accustoming his eyes to the obscurity and holding himself ready to dive
in retreat at the first alarm.
The shore end of Pier 31A had originally been a clean wall of solid
masonry. The removal of half a dozen great blocks of stone had made a
jagged opening in the midst of this, and into this opening, pulling
himself a little out of the water, Bubbles strained and strained his
eyes and saw nothing but the beginning of a passageway and then
His heart beat very hard and fast like the heart of a caught bird. Here,
leading into the city from the shore of the East River, was a mysterious
passageway. Who had made it and why? There were two ways of finding out.
One was to wait patiently until some one entered the passage or emerged
from it. The other way, and the better, was to forget how very much the
idea of so doing frightened you, climb into the opening, and follow the
passage to its other end. Bubbles compromised. He waited patiently for
half an hour. Nothing happened. Then he pulled himself into the opening
and crawled through the darkness for perhaps the length of a city block.
"What," he then said to himself, "is the use of me going any further? I
can't see in the dark. I've got no matches, and if anything happens to
me, there'll be nobody to tell Harry about this place. Better make a
get-away now, find Harry, and bring him here to-night. Then if we find
anybody there'll be something doing."
He had turned and was crawling rather rapidly toward the entrance of the
Bubble's problem was to locate Harry West. And he wrestled with it, if
trying to cover the whole of a scorching hot city on a pair of
insufficient legs and a very limited amount of carfare may be called
wrestling. His search took him into many odd places where you could not
have expected to cross the trail of an honest man. He even made
inquiries of a master-plumber, of a Fourth Avenue vender of antiques, of
a hairy woman with one eye who ran a news-stand, of a bar-tender, of
saloon-keepers and bootblacks. He drifted through a department store,
and whispered to a pretty girl who sold "art pictures." She shook her
head. He spoke a word to the negro sentinel of a house in the West
Forties, and was admitted to quiet, padded rooms, containing everything
which is necessary to separate hopeful persons from their money. In one
room a number of book-makers were whiling away the hot afternoon with
poker for small stakes. In another room, played upon by an electric fan,
sat Mr. Lichtenstein, the proprietor. He was bent over a table on which
he had assembled fifteen or twenty of the component parts of a very
large picture-puzzle. He was small, plump and earnest. He may have been
a Jew, but he had bright red hair and a pug nose. His eyes, bright,
quick, small, brown, and kind, were very busy hunting among the
brightly colored pieces of the puzzle.
"'Dafternoon, Mr. Liechtenstein," said Bubbles.
"'Dafternoon, Bubbles," said Mr. Lichtenstein, without looking up.
"How d'je know it was me?"
"I saw you in the looking-glass. What's the news?"
"It's for Harry."
"And Harry is--where?"
"Don't you know where Harry is?"
"I do. But you can't get to him." Mr. Lichtenstein lowered his voice.
"He's gone West, Bub, on the trail of O'Hagan. The plant the old one is
growing hasn't put its head above ground yet, and the roots are in the
West. Out in Utah they're teaching all kinds of Polacks to shoot rifles.
Why? O'Hagan is travelling from one mine to another as a common laborer.
Why? While here in little New York, the old one is sitting for his
portrait and getting a perfectly innocent young girl talked about. No
use to watch the old one till later."
"But," said Bubbles, "suppose some one was to find a secret passage
leading from the East River to--to--"
"He doesn't know where. He wanted to get Harry to go with him to find
"Where does the passage begin, Bubbles?"
"Under Pier 31 A."
[Illustration: "'Dafternoon, Mr. Lichtenstein," said Bubbles]
"Come over here, Bub," said Mr. Lichtenstein and led the way to a
mahogany table covered with green baize. Upon this he spread a
folding-map of New York City that he took from his inside pocket. With
the rapidity of thought his stubby forefinger found Pier 31A and passed
from it to the crook in Marrow Lane. And he said:
"Hum! The bee-line of it leads straight to Blizzard's place. There are
two things to find out, Bub. Is the passage straight? And how long is
it? A light in the entrance to sight by will answer question No. 1, and
a ball of twine to be unwound at leisure will answer No. 2."
"You'd ought to have a compass," Bubbles suggested, "to know just how
"True," said Mr. Lichtenstein. "Happy thought. And you could borrow one
mounted in tiger's eye from a friend."
He laughed, took the little compass in question from its watch chain,
and gave it to Bubbles. Then, his voice losing its bantering tone and
taking on a kind of faltering sincerity, he asked:
"Do you want to play this hand, Bubbles, or do you want me to delegate
some one else?"
"It's my graft," said Bubbles, "I'd like to see it through."
Mr. Lichtenstein looked upon the boy with a certain pride and
tenderness. "I'd like to go with you," he said, "but I can't run _any_
risks. There's the strings of too many things in my head. In every
battle there has to be a general who sits on a hill out of danger and
orders other people to do brave things. Remember that you've worked for
us ever since Harry came in and said, laughing, 'Governor, I've made
friends with a bright baby that knows how to keep his mouth shut,'
You've only to step up to Blizzard and say, 'Abe Lichtenstein is the
head,' to bring the gun-men down on me. But you'd die first."
The boy's breast swelled with pride and martial ardor. "Betcher life,"
he said, and then: "If I get the news will I bring it here?"
Mr. Lichtenstein considered for a minute. Then shook his head. "I'll be
in Blicker's drug-store between 'leven and midnight," he said.
"If I don't show up it'll be because I can't."
Mr. Lichtenstein smiled encouragingly. "Don't look on the dark side of
the future," he said, "but don't take any chances, and don't show a
light till you have to."
The night was hot, but the rising tide had brought in cold water from
the ocean, and what with his excitement and trepidation it was a very
shivery small boy that began to investigate the passage under Pier 31A.
Mindful of Mr. Lichtenstein's advice not to show a light till he had to,
Bubbles felt his way forward very slowly in the inky darkness,
unrolling, as he went, a huge ball of twine. It would be time to take
the bearings of the place by compass when he had ascertained its general
extent and whether it was free from human occupants. On this score he
felt comparatively safe, since it seemed likely that the passage had
been constructed with a view to emergency rather than daily use.
Having advanced a distance of about three short city blocks, it seemed
to Bubbles as if the passage had opened suddenly into a room. If so, he
had to thank instinct for the knowledge, since he could see but an inch
in the blackness. He had the feeling that walls were no longer passing
near him, and, groping cautiously this way and that, he found it to be
fact and not fancy. During these gropings he lost his sense of
direction, and, after considering the matter at some length, he
concluded that the time had come to flash his torch. But first he
listened for a long time. At last, satisfied that he was alone, his
thumb began to press against the switch of his torch. A shaft of light
bored into the darkness, and he saw two wildly bearded men, who sat with
their backs against a wall of living rock and looked straight at him.
It was as if he had been suddenly frozen solid, so dreadful was his
surprise and horror, but the men with the wild heads showed no emotion.
They had a pale, tired, hopeless look; and though one was dark and one
blond, this expression, common to both, gave them an appearance of being
twin brothers. They had gentle soft eyes in which was no sign of
surprise or agitation. It seemed as if they were perfectly accustomed to
having light suddenly flashed into them. One of the men leaned forward
and began to run his hand this way and that over the hard dirt floor.
"Lost something?" said the other suddenly.
"Dropped my plug," said the first in a dull weary voice, and he
continued to feel for and repeatedly just miss a half-cake of
chewing-tobacco. Bubbles could see it distinctly, and another thing was
clear to him: the men were both blind.
With this knowledge certain frayed and tattered fragments of courage
returned to him, and, what was of much greater importance, his
presence of mind.
The excavation in which he stood was nearly forty feet square. His torch
showed him the passage by which he had entered, and opposite this a
flight of steps leading sharply upward. Here and there, leaning against
the walls, were picks and shovels and other tools used in excavating.
Near the centre of the passage was a tall pile of dirt and loose stones,
together with two small wheelbarrows of sheet-iron.
Just as Bubbles had ascertained these facts and got himself into a much
calmer state of mind, he had a fresh thrill of horror. The two blind men
sighed, and as if moved by a common impulse got up, and the little boy
saw that, like Blizzard, the beggar, they had no legs. With perfect
accuracy of direction they turned to the great pile of dirt, and taking
up two shovels which leaned against it began to fill the two little
They labored slowly as if time was of no moment, as if the work in hand
was a form of punishment instead of something that it was intended
Bubbles had begun to wonder what they were going to do with the dirt,
when one of them, having filled his barrow, trundled off with it into
the passageway leading to the river. And to Bubbles, feverishly
listening, there came after what seemed a very long interval a sound as
of earth being dumped into water.
The second excavator, having filled his barrow, waited the return of his
companion, since the passage was too narrow to admit of the two barrows
meeting and passing each other.
And that simple fact was very alarming to Bubbles, since virtually it
made a prisoner of him. One man with his barrow full or empty was always
in the passage.
Nor was there any possibility of escape by the flight of stairs which
he had noticed, for a hurried examination revealed a door of sheet-iron
which did not give to his most determined efforts. There was nothing for
it but to wait until the blind men should rest from their labors.
He got used to them gradually; lost his fear of them. Once in a while
they spoke to each other, always with a kind of lugubrious gentleness in
their voices. He began to feel sorry for them. He wished to be of
service to them in some way or other. Their wild beards and shaggy,
matted hair no longer terrified him. They were two lambs made up to
represent wolves, but the merest child must have seen through the
Upon the ball of twine which Bubbles still held in his hand there was a
sudden tug. It fell to the ground with a thump and rolled toward the
blind laborer who had just filled his barrow. He was much startled and
turned his blind eyes this way and that; then called to his mate, at
that moment coming from the passageway.
"I heard something drop," he said; "somebody dropped something. I
thought I heard steps on the stairs, and now I know I did."
But the other had found the twine lying the length of the passage. "Some
one's come in from the river," he said, "and dropped all this string,"
He began to gather it in, hand over hand, paused suddenly, and then,
with a kind of bravado of terrified politeness, and with a bob of his
wild, dark head, exclaimed:
"Good evening, Mr. Blizzard!"
Then the pair cowered as if they expected to be struck, and after a long
while the blond one said:
"It ain't him."
Then the dark one:
"Don't be scared of us. We couldn't hurt a fly if we wanted to. Who is
Now it seemed to Bubbles all of a sudden (though the mention of
Blizzard's name had once more given him the horrors) that any risk run
in revealing his presence to the blind men was more than compensated by
the consequent possibility of "finding out things" from them. So
"It's only me--just a boy. I found this hole swimmin' and come in to see
what it was for."
"It's only a boy," said the blond man.
"He wouldn't hurt us," said the dark one.
"Maybe you'll tell me what all this cellar work is for," said Bubbles.
The dark man scratched his matted head. "We don't know," he said; "we
was just put in here to dig. At first there was ten of us; but we was
kep' on to give the finishin' touches."
"What became of the others?"
"Oh, Mr. Blizzard, he's got other work for them."
"Is this place under his house?"
"No, sir, it ain't. But the cellar at the head of them steps is."
"Maybe he's hollered this out to hide things in?"
The blind men turned toward each other and nodded their heads.
"That's just presactly what we think," said the blond one.
"What do you do when you aren't working?"
"Oh, we sleeps and eats in Blizzard's cellar."
"How long you been on the job?"
"We don't know. We lost track."
"See much of Blizzard?"
"Oh, he's in and out, just to keep things going."
"Is the passage to the river just to get rid of the dirt?"
The dark man laughed sheepishly. "We don't think so," he said--"we gets
lots of time to think. And it ain't always dirt that goes into the
river. Twicet it's been men, and once it were a woman. There was lead
pipe wrapped round the bodies to make 'em sink. And oncet Blizzard he
tumbled a girl down the stairs to us. But she weren't dead, and me and
Bill took the lead off her before we throwed her in."
His comrade interrupted. "She said she could swim. She said if we'd take
the lead off and untie her and give her a chanst, we could have a kiss
apiece. But we let her go fer nothin'."
"Did she get away?" Bubbles was tremendously interested.
"No, sir. It was dark night, and she couldn't find a way out from under
the wharf. She just swam round and round, slower and slower, like a
mouse in a wash-tub. Then she calls out she'll come back and we can hide
her till daylight. But she don't make it We has to stand there and
listen to her drown."
"When she's dead she gets out into the open river, and when Blizzard
hears she's been found without any lead on her he raises hell."
"When he gets through with us we was most skinned alive."
"He wouldn't dig that hole to the river," said Bubbles, "just to get rid
of people. What do you think it's for?"
"You ain't goin' to tell Blizzard you been here, nor get us in trouble?"
"I'll get you out of this some day, but you can't get in no trouble
"Then," said the blond man, "this is what we thinks out and concludes:
Blizzard he's calculatin' to receive stolen goods wholesale. First he
stores 'em in here until this cellar is full, and then he takes 'em down
to the river and puts 'em aboard a ship bound fur furrin' ports, and we
thinks and concludes that he'll make his get-away about the same time."
"Well," said Bubbles, "I'm obliged. I won't forget your kindness. But
it's time I was off."
"Come close first," said the blond man.
Bubbles was instantly alarmed. "Why?"
"Only so's we can feel your face, so's to know what you look like."
He stood impatient and embarrassed while they pawed his face with hard,
At last they let him go, he whose barrow was full accompanying him to
the end of the passageway, and speeding him on his way with this
"If you was to dive deep and feel around, you might find those as is
leaded to the bottom."
It took every ounce of nerve that Bubbles had at command to let his legs
and body slip down into the cold and tragic current. It seemed certain
that dead hands were reaching for him. But he screwed his courage up to
the sticking point, and called to his acquaintance in the passage-mouth
a whispered but nonchalant, "S'long!"
When Bubbles entered Blicker's drug-store, the city clocks were striking
a quarter to twelve, but the place was still brightly lighted, and at
the soda-counter a young man was treating his flame to a glass of
chocolate vanilla ice-cream.
Bubbles marched to the prescription counter, and began to unwrap a
bloody handkerchief from his left hand. Then he began to clear his
throat. This brought Mr. Blicker from a region of mortar pestles, empty
pill-boxes, and glass retorts.
"What you want?" he asked aggressively.
"I want me thumb bandaged."
"You cut him--eh?"
Bubbles lowered his voice. "On a barnacle."
"Come in back here," said Mr. Blicker roughly. "I fix him." But once out
of sight in the depths of the store, his manner changed, and he patted
Bubbles enthusiastically on the back. "You have found out some things?"
The chemist, without commenting, began to treat the cut thumb, washing,
disinfecting, and bandaging. Then, very loud, for the benefit perhaps of
the lovers at the soda-counter, "So," he said, "I let you out the
And he actually opened a door, slammed it shut, and turned a key in the
lock. But it was a closet door. Then with a finger on his lips he
pointed to a narrow staircase and, his own feet making a great tramping,
led the way up it. Upon the top steps they found Mr. Lichtenstein,
nervously puffing clouds of tobacco smoke,
"'Bout given you up," he said. "Good boy!"
"Better talk by the parlor," said Blicker; "here is too exposed."
When the door of the stuffy little parlor had closed behind them, the
proprietor began to smile and beam. But Mr. Lichtenstein looked grave
and troubled. It was not for pleasure that he sometimes found occasion
to put dangerous work in the hands of children.
"Hurt your thumb bad?" he asked.
Bubbles shook his head and plunged into his story. Now and then the
German laughed, but the red-haired, pug-nosed Jew appeared to sink
deeper and deeper into his own thoughts, only showing by an occasional
question that he was following the boy's narrative. Bubbles wished to
dwell at length and with comment upon the use of the passage for
disposing of dead bodies, but to Mr. Lichtenstein this appeared to be
merely a natural by-product of its construction.
"It wasn't dug for that," he said. "How big is the main excavation?"
[Illustration: "I want me thumb bandaged"]
"'Bout as big as a small East Side dance-hall."
Mr. Liechtenstein turned to the German. "Hold a lot of loot--what?"
"I bet me," said the German, and washed his hands with air.
"Lot o' what?" asked Bubbles.
"Loot--gold, silver, jewels, bullion."
"Your ideas," said the German, "is all idiot. No mans is such a darn
fool as to think he can get away by such a business--no mans, that is,
but is crazy."
"Blizzard is crazy," said Mr. Lichtenstein simply. "It wasn't until we
hit on that hypothesis that we made any progress. Bubbles, did you ever
hear of the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew?"
"Sure," said Bubbles, "they shot him full of arrows."
"That was Saint Sebastian," corrected the Jew. "Now listen, this is
history. On the night of August 24, 1572, two thousand men,
distinguished from other men by white cockades in their hats, on the
order of a crazy man, at the tolling of a bell, drew their swords,
murdered everybody in a great city who opposed their leaders, and made
themselves absolute masters of the place. What two thousand men did in
Paris during the Middle Ages, ten thousand men acting in concert could
do in New York to-day. If a man rose up with the power to command such a
following, with the ability to keep his plans absolutely secret, with
the genius to make plans in which there were no flaws, he could loot
Maiden Lane, the Sub-Treasury, Tiffany's, the Metropolitan Museum--_and
get away with it_."
Mr. Lichtenstein's small eyes glittered. He was visibly excited. And so
was Mr. Blicker.
"He will loot the Metropolitan Museum," said this one, "but what will he
do with the metropolitan police?"
"Well," said Mr. Lichtenstein, "I am only supposing. But suppose some
fine night a building somewhere central was blown up with dynamite.
Suppose the sound was so big that it could be heard in every part of
greater New York. Suppose at the sound every policeman in greater New
York was shot dead in his tracks--"
Bubbles's hair began to bristle. "Say," he cried in his excitement, "the
straw hats--the soft straw hats that Blizzard makes and don't
sell--they're the white cockades!"
Mr. Blicker guffawed. Mr. Lichtenstein rose and paced the room.
"And that proves," he exclaimed, "that nothing is to happen when you and
I are wearing straw hats--but in winter. Bubbles, you're a bright boy!"
"You are both so bright," said Mr. Blicker, "you keep me all the time
"Well," said Mr. Lichtenstein, "that may be, but suppose you tell me why
Blizzard makes straw hats and don't sell 'em. Tell me why he's dug such
a great hole under his house with a passage leading to the river, and
ships. Tell me why O'Hagan is drilling men in the West. Tell me why
Blizzard has gone out of the white-slave business. It fetched him in a
"I think I can answer the last question," said Bubbles.
"I think," said the small boy, "that he's got some good in him
somewhere, and I know he's dead gone on my Miss Ferris. I think he's
ashamed o' some o' the things he's done."
Mr. Lichtenstein considered this at some length. Then he said: "Well,
that's possible. But it's an absolutely new idea to me. Blizzard
"True that policemen take money in exchange for protection? True that
they practise blackmail and extortion? Of course it's true. Whenever a
big temptation appears loose in a city half the people who get a look at
it trip and fall. Oh, I'd like to reform this city, Miss Barbara--and
this country. I'd like to be dictator for six months."
"Who wouldn't?" said Barbara. "But what would you do? Where would you
"I should be drastic at first," said the legless man, "and kind later.
I'd begin," he went on, his eyes smiling, "with a general massacre of
incompetents--old men with too little money, young men with too
much--old maids, aliens, incurables, the races that are too clever to
work, the races that are too stupid, habitual drunkards, spreaders of
disease, the women who abolished the canteen, the women who wear
aigrettes. After that I should destroy all possibilities of graft."
"How?" asked Barbara.
"Why," said he, "the simplest way in the world--legalize the business
that now pays for protection. There would be no more of them than there
are now, and they could be regulated and kept to confined limits of
cities. Don't blame the police for graft: blame all who believe that
human nature can be abolished by law. But," and this time his whole face
smiled, "I shall never be dictator. The thing to do is to start a new
country, and make no mistakes."
And he proceeded, sometimes seriously but for the most part whimsically,
to outline his model republic, while Barbara worked and listened,
sometimes with amusement, sometimes with a sense of being uplifted and
thrilled by the man's plausible originality. Since she had but the
vaguest recollection of history, and none whatever of economics, it was
easy for the man to play the constructive statesman. Nor were his
schemes always foolish and illogical, since the book of human nature had
been always in his library, and of all its volumes had been most
"Ah!" said the legless man at last, "if I were younger, and whole!"
Whenever he referred to his maimed condition Barbara, to whom it was no
longer physically shocking, was uncomfortable and distressed, changing
the subject as swiftly as might be. But now, stopping her work short
off, her hands hanging at her sides, she began to speak of the matter.
"I suppose," she said, "it's almost life and death to you--sometimes,
that you'd give almost anything, take any chance to be--the way you were
meant to be. My father believes that some day people can have anything
that they've lost restored--a hand or an arm. He's made experiments
along those lines ever since he made his mistake with you, and it all
works out beautifully with monkeys and dogs and guinea-pigs and
rabbits. Just now he is in Colorado to try it on a man. There's a man
out there in jail for life, who has a brother that lost his right hand
in some machinery. The well brother has offered to let father cut off
his hand, and graft it on the maimed brother's wrist. I've just had a
letter--it's been done. He thinks it's all right, but he can't be sure
yet. Please don't say anything about it because--well, because people
are still queer about these things. In the old days people burned the
best doctors, and now they want to lynch vivisectors and almost anybody
who's really trying to make health more or less contagious."
"Do you believe I could be made whole?" exclaimed Blizzard, his eyes
glittering as with a sudden hope. "My God! Even if they weren't much use
to me, I'd give my soul to look like a real man--my soul! Do you know
what I'd rather do than anything in this whole world--just once? I'd
rather draw myself to my full height--just once--than be Napoleon
Bonaparte. If all the treasure in this city were mine to give, I'd give
it to walk the length of a city block on my own feet, looking down at
the people instead of always up--always up--until the leverage of your
eyes twists the back of your brain in everlasting torment."
"When my father comes back," said Barbara quietly, "talk to him. And if
only it can be done--why, you'll forgive us, won't you, for all the
suffering you've had and everything?"
[Illustration: She said in a small, surprised voice, "Why, it's
"Yes, yes," he said quickly. "But it isn't true--it isn't possible. It
won't work. It's against experience."
"It is _possible_," said Barbara gently. "That's all I know. And even
if--even if it can't be done yet awhile, I thought it would comfort you
to think that some day--almost surely--"
"You are always thinking of my comfort," he cried. "In this pit that we
call life, you are an angel serene, blessed and blessing. Oh," he cried,
"what would you say if I stood before you on my own feet, and told
you--told you--" He broke off short and hung his head.
Barbara bit her lips and lifted her hands with a weary gesture to resume
work. But the bust of Blizzard was a live thing, and seeing anew the
strength and hellish beauty of it, suddenly and as if with the eyes of a
stranger, her heart seemed to leap into her throat, her whole body
relaxed once more, and she said in a small, surprised voice:
"Why, it's finished!"
Upon Blizzard, who had been looking forward to many mornings during
which he should unobtrusively advance his cause, this quiet statement
fell with disturbing force. It meant that his opportunities for intimate
talks had come to a sudden and most unprepared-for end. He knew that
Barbara was tired out with the steady grind of creation, and that she
had been going through an equally steady grind of discouragement and
uncertainty. He believed that she would make no delay in carrying her
triumph and her trouble out of the heat-ridden city, to cool places, to
her own people. He believed, not that she would forget him, but that,
free from his influence, she would see with equal vision how wide the
gulf between them really was.
He had made a slip in his calculation. He had been spreading his arts
thinly, you may say, to cover what he supposed was to have been a much
longer period of time. And he should have come sooner and with all his
strength to the point. There had been moments of supreme discouragement,
when, if there was to be a miracle in his life, he should have spoken.
There were to be no more of those golden moments. She would close the
studio, go away, and return by way of exercise and fresh air to a sane
and normal state of mind--a state of mind in which such a physical and
moral cripple as himself could have no place except among the
She stood looking steadily at the head which had come to life under her
hands. Her eyelids drooped heavily. She looked almost as if she was
Blizzard watched her as a cat watches a mouse, not knowing what was best
for him to dare. Now he was for pleading his cause with all the passion
that inspired it; now for boldly claiming her as the expiation for her
father's fault; and now he was for passing over all preliminaries and
felling her with a blow of his fist.
And then she suddenly turned to him, and smiled like a very happy and
very tired child. "You've been very good to me," she said, "and so
patient! I don't know quite how to thank you. I owe you such a lot."
"Do you?" he said, his hard eyes softening and seeking hers.
She nodded slowly. "Such a lot. And there's no way of paying, or making
things up to you, is there?"
"Only one," he said.
There was quite a long silence; his eyes, flames in them, held hers,
which were troubled and childlike, and imbued the two words that he had
spoken with an unmistakable intelligence.
"Don't let me go utterly," he said, "and slip back into the pit. You
have finished the bust. If you wished you could finish the man: put him
back among the good angels.... If your father died owing money, you
couldn't rest until you had paid his debts.... I could be anything you
wished. And I could give you anything that you wanted in this world.
There is nothing I couldn't put over--with you at my side, wishing the
good deed done, the great deed--or--"
He began to tremble with the passion that was in his voice, slipped from
his chair, and began to move slowly toward her with outstretched arms,
upon his stumps of legs.
It was no mirth or any sense of the ridiculous that moved Barbara, but
fear, disgust, and horror. She backed away from him, laughing
hysterically. But he, whose self-consciousness in her sight bordered
upon mania, mistook the cause of her laughter, so that a kind of
hell-born fury shook him, and he rushed at her, his mouth giving out
horrible and inarticulate sounds. And in those lightning moments she
could move neither hand nor foot; nor could she cry for help. And yet
she realized, as in some nightmare, that if once those horrible hairy
hands closed upon her she was lost utterly. And in that same clear flash
of reason she realized that for whatever might befall she had herself
alone to blame. She had touched pitch, and played with fire--and all
that men might some day call her great.
[Illustration: In that instant the legless man overreached himself and
The speed for which the fury of the legless man called was more than the
stumps of his legs could furnish. He was like a man, thigh-deep in
water, who attempts to run at top speed. Yet his hands were within
inches of her dress, when daring and nerve at last thrilled through
Barbara, and returned her muscles into the keeping of her mind. She
darted backward and to one side. In that instant the legless man
overreached himself and fell heavily. Here seemed an inestimable
advantage for Barbara, and yet the great body, shaken with curses and
already rising to its stumps, was between her and the door.
For once the legless man had been deserted by the power of cool
reasoning. And his fury was of a kind that could not wait for
satisfaction. He was more like a mad dog than a man. And this, although
it added to the horror of Barbara's situation, proved her salvation.
Occupying a point from which he could head off her escape by either of
the studio doors, he abandoned this, and attempted to match the stumps
of his legs against her swift young feet. And must have overcome the
disparity, but that in the lightning instinct of self-preservation she
overturned a table between them, and during the moments thus gained
dashed into her dressing-room and locked the door behind her.
Blizzard vented his rage upon the locked door, splintering its panels
with bleeding fists; but in the meanwhile his quarry had escaped him,
and was already in the street walking swiftly toward Washington Square.
He leaned at last from a window, and saw her going. And in his heart
shame gradually took the place of fury. Why, when she laughed at him,
had he not been able to dissemble his emotions for a few seconds? to
mask his dreadfulness? For then, surely, he must have got her in his
power. He should have hung his head when she laughed, begged her to
forgive him for daring to lift his thoughts to her; and begged her as a
token of forgiveness to shake hands with him. Her hand once clasped
[Illustration: Barbara ... dashed into her dressing-room and locked the
door behind her.]
Well, he had made a fool of himself. Perhaps he had frightened her
utterly beyond the reach even of his long arm. Fear would carry her out
of the city, out of the State, out of the country, perhaps. To prevent
the least of these contingencies he must act swiftly and with
He passed into the studio, glanced upward at the bust of himself,
stopped, and looked about for something heavy with which to destroy it.
Later he would tell her that he had done so, and let that knowledge be
the beginning of her torment.
But the thing that he planned to destroy looked him in the eye, smiling.
The thing smiled in the full knowledge of good and evil, the fact that
it had chosen evil, the fact that it was lost forever. It was no
contagious smile, but a smile aloof and dreadful. So a man, impaled, may
smile, when agony has passed beyond the usual human passions--and even
so the legless man smiled upward at the smiling bust of himself. And he
found that he could not destroy the bust: for the act would have about
it too ominous a flavor of self-destruction.
He caught up his crutches, his little hand-organ, and hurried from the
studio. By now Barbara must be well on her way uptown. He entered a
public telephone station and gave the number of her house. He asked to
speak with Miss Marion O'Brien, and when after an interval he heard the
voice of Barbara's maid in his ear, he said: "She's been frightened. Let
me know what she's going to do as soon as you know. Don't use the house
'phone. Slip out to a pay station. I must know when she's going and
where, and if she says for how long." He hung up the receiver, and
An hour later Barbara's maid telephoned him the required news, but all
of it that mattered was that Barbara was not going out of town until the
next day. There was a whole afternoon and night in which to act.
The legless man sank at once into deep and swift thought. And ten
minutes later he had abandoned all idea of kidnapping Barbara for the
present. Certain dangers of so doing seemed insurmountable. He must
possess his soul in patience, and in the meanwhile discount, if
possible, the fright that he had given her. To this end he wrote the
"It wasn't your fault that I lifted my eyes to you, and hoped that you
would lower yours to me. But now I know what a fool I have been. I
forgive you for laughing at me, though at the time it made me mad like a
dog, and I only wanted to hurt the woman I love. I won't trouble you any
more, ever. Indeed I am too ashamed and humbled ever to wish to see you
again. Only please don't hate me. If I had any good sides, please
remember them. Some time you will hear of me again; but never again from
me. I have work to do, but I have given my time to dreaming.
"When your father comes back will you ask him to let me know if he will
see me? You thought he could do something for me--or hold out some hope.
I would risk my life itself to be whole, even if I could never be very
active. And science is so wonderful; and I know your father would like
to help me if he could.
"If you don't think I am being punished for threatening you, and going
crazy, you don't know anything about the unhappiest beast in this world.
But it is terrible for a cripple when the one person he looks up to
laughs at him. I have a thick skin; but that burnt through it
The messenger who carried the letter to Barbara brought him her answer:
"I will give your message to my father. You are quite wrong about the
laughing. I didn't laugh at you or anything about you. I laughed because
I was nervous and frightened. But it can't matter much one way or the
other. I am sorry that you have been hurt twice by my family. But the
second hurt is not our fault. And I do not see that there is anything to
be done about it. As for the first, my father would end his days in
peace if he could make you whole. I shall hope to hear nothing but good
of you in the future."
The shame and remorse to which Blizzard pretended, Barbara actually
felt. All her friendships with men had been pursued by disasters of
some sort or other. But her most disastrous experiment in friendship had
been with Blizzard. She had been bluntly told by truth-speaking persons
that he was not a fit acquaintance for her. His own face had warned her.
But she had persisted in meeting him without precautions, in treating
him like an equal, in overcoming her natural and just repugnance to him,
and in calling him her friend. It was humiliating for her to realize and
acknowledge that she had made a fool of herself. It was worse to
remember the look in his face, during those last awful moments in the
studio. Even if the bust she had made of him was a great work of art,
she had paid too high for the privilege of making it.
Dr. Ferris was delighted to learn that Barbara had left town. Her
meetings with Blizzard had been horribly on his mind and conscience. He
had dreaded some vague calamity--some intangible darkening of his
A few days in the country had worked wonders for her. Her skin had
browned a little, and her cheeks were crimson. But dearer to the
paternal heart than these evidences of good health was the fact that she
seemed unusually glad to see him. She seemed to him to have lost a world
of independence and self-reliance, to be inclined to accept his
judgments without dispute. She seemed more womanly and more daughterly,
more normal and more beautiful.
For a man with a heavy weight always upon his conscience, the excellent
surgeon found himself wonderfully at peace with the world and its
institutions. There was no doubt that the hand which he had come from
grafting was going to live and be of some use to its new owner. His mail
was heavy with approbation. And it seemed to him that the path which he
had discovered had no ending.
"In a hundred years, Barbara," he said, "it will be possible to replace
anything that the body has lost, or that has become diseased and useless
or a menace--not the heart, perhaps, nor the brain--but anything else.
What I have done clumsily others will do to perfection."
"What are the chances for Blizzard?"
"Even," said the surgeon. "They would be more favorable if he had not
lost his legs so long ago. At the worst the experiment wouldn't kill
him. He would merely have undergone a useless operation. At the best he
would be able to walk, run perhaps, and look like a whole man. If
anything is to be done for him, the time has come. He has only to tell
me to go ahead."
"I think he'll do that," said Barbara. "But there's one thing I don't
understand," and she smiled; "who is to supply the spare legs?"
"That's the least of all the difficulties," said her father, "now that
ways of keeping tissues alive have been discovered and proved. In time
there will be storages from which any part of the human body may be
obtained on short notice and in perfect condition for grafting. Just now
the idea is horrible to ignorant people, but the faith will spread. Only
wait till we have made a few old people young--for that will come, too,
with the new surgery."
"You will be glad," said Barbara, "to hear that I have severed friendly
relations with Mr. Blizzard. He behaved in the end pretty much as you
all feared he would."
And she told her father, briefly, and somewhat shamefacedly, all that
had happened in the studio.
"He thought I was laughing at him," she said. "Of course I wasn't. And
he came at me. Do you remember when poor old Rose went mad, and tried to
get at us through the bars of the kennel? Blizzard looked like
that--like a mad dog." She shuddered.
The surgeon's high spirits were dashed as with cold water.
"He ought not to be helped," said Barbara; "he ought to be shot, as Rose
But Dr. Ferris shook his head gravely. "If he is that sort of a man," he
said, "who made him so? Who took the joy of life from him? Barbara, my
dear, there is nothing that man could do that I couldn't forgive."
"And I think that your conscience is sick," said Barbara. "I used to
think as you think. But if you had seen his face that day!... The one
great mistake you have made has ruined not his life, but yours. If he
had had the right stuff in him, calamity would not have broken him! It
would have _made_ him. Give him a new pair of legs, if you can; and
forget about him, as I shall. When you first told me about him, I
thought we owed him anything he chose to ask. At one time I thought that
if he wished it, it would be right for me to marry him."
"Yes, I did--I thought it strongly. Shows what a fool a girl who's
naturally foolish can make of herself! Why, father, what if he has
suffered through your mistake? That mistake turned your thoughts to the
new surgery--and for the one miserable man that you have hurt you will
have given the wonder of hope to the whole of mankind."
She slid her hand under her father's arm.
"Let's potter 'round the gardens," she said, "and forget our troubles.
It's bully to have you back. There's not much doing in the floral line.
The summer sun in Westchester doesn't vary from year to year. But there
are lots of green things that smell good, and the asters and dahlias are
making the most extraordinary promises of what they are going to do
by and by."
They passed out of the house and by marble steps into the first and most
formal of their many gardens, and so down through the other gardens,
terrace below terrace, to the lake.
The water was so still as to suggest a solid rather than a liquid; to
the west shadowy mountains of cloud charged with thunder swelled toward
the zenith. The long midsummer drought was coming to an end, and all
birds and insects were silent, as if tired of complaining. Across the
lake one maple, turned prematurely scarlet, brought out the soft greens
of the woods with an astounding accent. Directly in front of this
flaming tree, a snow-white heron stood motionless upon a gray rock.
[Illustration: They passed out of the house and by marble steps into the
first and most formal of their many gardens]
To Barbara it seemed on that day that "Clovelly" was the loveliest place
in all the world, and her father, who had fashioned it out of rough farm
lands, one of the world's most charming artists. "Why paint with
oils, when you can draw with trees and flowers and grass and water?" she
"In the time it took me to do Blizzard's bust," she said, "I could have
planted millions of flowers and seen them bloom."
"At least," said her father, "you can finish a bust, but a garden that
is finished isn't a garden. What are you going to do with it?"
"The bust? Why, sometimes I think I'll just leave it in the studio, and
let it survive or perish. Sometimes I want to take a hammer and smash it
"It didn't come out as well as you hoped?"
"Of course not. Does anything ever? But it's the best that I can do. And
I shall never do anything better."
"I shall never even try. I want to recover all the things I've thrown
away, and put them back in my head and heart where they belong, and
"Well," said her father, smiling, "if you feel that way, why that's a
good way to feel. But I'm afraid art is stronger in you than you think.
Just now you're tired and disillusionized. In a month you'll be making
sketches for some monumental opus."
"If I do," said Barbara, "it will be executed here at Clovelly. I never
want to leave Clovelly. I feel safe here, safe from myself and other
people. I think," and she smiled whimsically, "that I should almost
like to settle down and make you a good daughter."
"A good daughter," said the surgeon, "marries; and her father builds a
beautiful house for her, just over the hill from his own--remember the
little valley where we found all the fringed gentian one year?--and the
shortest cut between the two houses is worn bare and packed hard by the
feet of grandchildren. Good Lord, my dear, what's the good of art,
what's the good of science? I would rather have watched you grow up than
have made the Winged Victory, or discovered the circulation of the
blood. Come now? Barbs, tell me, who's the young man?"
For the first time in her life she told him of the wild impulsiveness
and the shocking brevity of her affections for various members of his
sex; naming no names she explained to him with much self-abasement (and
a little amusement) that she was no good, "A nice wife I'd make!" she
But her father only laughed. "The only abnormal thing about you," he
said, "is that you tell the truth. The average girl shows men more
attentions than men show her. I don't mean that she demonstrates her
attentions; but that she feels them in her heart. To be absolutely the
first in a woman's heart a man must catch her when she's about three
"But a girl," said Barbara, "who thinks she's sure and then finds she
isn't, hurts the people she's fondest of. In extreme eases she breaks
hearts and spoils lives."
[Illustration: "What is Wilmot doing with himself these days?" "He
went away," said Barbara, her eyes troubled.]
"Hearts," said her father, "that can be broken are very weak. Lives
that can be spoiled by disappointment and injured pride aren't worth
preserving. If you have nothing more serious on your conscience than
having, in all good faith, encouraged a few young men, found that you
were wrong, and sent them away with bees in their bonnets, I'm sure I
Barbara simply shook her head.
"When you do find the right man, Barbara, you'll make up to him with
showers of blessings for whatever cold rains you've shed on others....
What is Wilmot doing with himself these days?"
"He went away," said Barbara, and she sat looking steadily across the
lake, her chin on her hand, her eyes troubled.
In many ways the life which Barbara led at Clovelly was calculated to
rest her mind. She developed a passion for exercise, and when night came
was too full of tired good health to read or talk. Since the estate was
to be hers one day, she found the wish to know her way intimately about
it, and since there were three thousand acres, for the most part thick
forests spread over rocky hills, she could contemplate weeks of
delightful explorations. To discover ponds, brooks, and caves that
belong to other people has its delights, but to go daily up and down a
lovely country discovering lovely things that belong to yourself is
perhaps the most delightful way of passing time that has been vouchsafed
to any one.
On these explorations Barbara's chosen companion was Bubbles. He was no
longer a mere Buttons: her interest and belief in the child had passed
beyond the wish to see him develop into a good servant. She wished to
make something better of him--or if there is nothing better than a good
servant, something more showy and ornamental.
He was sharp as a needle; and he was honest. He was not too old to be
moulded by good influences, schools, and associations into a man with
proper manners, and an upper-class command of the English language. He
should go to one of the New England church schools, later to college,
then he should choose a career for himself and be helped into harness.
So she planned his future. In the meanwhile she wished to see the thin,
spindly body catch up with the big, intelligent head. Although his
muscles were tough and wiry he had a delicate look which troubled her,
and a cough which to her inexperienced and anxious ears suggested a
Dr. Ferris laughed at this, but to satisfy her he gave the boy a
thorough questioning and a thorough looking over. "Any of your family
"Don't think so, sir."
"Well, you're not. Heart and lungs are sound."
"Miss Barbara says she doesn't like my cough."
"Yes," said the surgeon, "it worries her quite a good deal. And I advise
you to stop it."
"But my throat gets tickling, and--"
"Your throat gets tickling because you are an inveterate cigarette
smoker. And that's the reason why you are undersized and
under-nourished. How long have you smoked?"
"I don't remember when I didn't."
"Can't you stop?"
"I stopped once for two days, and then I took a pack of smokers that
wasn't mine. That was about the only thing I ever stole."
"But if you gave me your word not to smoke any more till you're
twenty-one, couldn't you keep that promise?"
"I could try," said Bubbles, evincing very little confidence,
"Will you try?" said the surgeon. "Hello, what's this?"
The boy in lifting his left arm had disclosed a dark-brown birthmark
shaped like the new moon. All amusement had gone out of Dr. Ferris's
eyes; and he had that look of tragic memories that so often put an end
to his smiling and optimistic moods.
"Do you remember your father?"
Bubbles hesitated. "She's in an asylum. She's crazy."
"What was your father's name?"
Bubbles shook his head.
The surgeon considered for a moment. "Well," he said, at length, and
once more smiling, "put your clothes on, and then go to Miss Ferris and
promise her that you won't smoke any more. What asylum did you say your
mother was in?"
"Do you ever see her?"
"No, sir. She don't like to see me."
"What is her name, Bubbles?"
Dr. Ferris ordered a car, and in less than two hours he was talking
with the superintendent of Ottawan about the patient, Jenny Ward.
"The boy," he was saying, "is a protege of my daughter's. She means to
educate him, and we are naturally interested in his antecedents. I
wonder if she has any lucid recollection of the father?"
"When she first came she seemed to have lucid moments. Even now she
never makes trouble for any one, except that sometimes she wakes in the
night screaming. She has been very pretty."
"H'm!" said Dr. Ferris. "You think she couldn't tell me anything about
the boy's father?"
"I know she couldn't. When she was examined after being committed, it
was found that her tongue had been cut out."
The woman, upon being visited, proved a meek, gentle, pathetic creature,
eager to please. As the superintendent reported, she had been very
pretty. She would have been pretty still, but for her utterly
The doctor questioned her, but she made no effort, it seemed, even to
understand the questions. Given a pencil and paper she seemed to take
pleasure in making dots, dashes, and scrawls; but she made no mark that
in any way represented a letter of the alphabet. Confronted with a
printed page, she thrust it aside.
"Very likely she never could read or write," said the superintendent;
"usually when you give 'em a pencil they make letters by an act of
In the corridor outside the woman's room, they encountered one of those
nurses who are used in managing the violent insane. He was a huge
fellow, with a dark, strong, and somewhat forbidding face. He nodded to
the superintendent and passed. Dr. Ferris looked after him down the
corridor, had a sudden thought, and communicated it to his host in a
"I say, Gyles! Look here a moment"
The huge nurse turned on his heel, and came towering back to them.
"Have you ever assisted in looking after the woman Jenny Ward?" and he
pointed toward the door of her room.
"Dr. Ferris wishes to try an experiment."
"He wishes you to throw open the door of her room, and to enter
quickly--upon your knees."
"On my knees?"
"All right, sir." The man shrugged his big shoulders, and, his face
sullen and annoyed, knelt at the door of Jenny Ward's room, unlocked it,
flung it open, and entered quickly.
Over his head the doctors saw an expression of fear, almost unearthly,
come over the woman's face. And she filled her room and the corridor
without with a hoarse and horrible screaming.
Instantly the big nurse rose to his feet, and came out of the room. His
face was passionately angry. And he said:
"It's a shame to frighten her like that."
The superintendent's eyes fell before the glare in those of the
employee, and he murmured something about "necessary experiment--had
to be done."
"There's no room for doubt in my mind," said Dr. Ferris. "The
coincidence of the birthmarks, most unusual in shape and texture, the
poor woman's behavior at sight of a man who at first glance appeared to
be without legs--"
"Yes," said Barbara, "but I go more on a certain expression that Bubbles
sometimes has and that makes him look like his father. You see, I've
done both their heads, and studied them closer than anybody else."
"Do you suppose the boy knows?"
She shook her head. "I think not. He's too--too decent. If he thought
that Blizzard was his father, he wouldn't say the things that I have
heard him say about him. He's the most loyal child."
"Do you suppose Blizzard knows?"
"Why, of course. A man could hardly have a son without knowing
him--especially a man who lives with his ears to the ground and his mind
in touch with everything in the city."
Dr. Ferris smiled a little. "Well," he said, "shall we tell Bubbles?"
"Why should we? I shouldn't like to be told out of a clear sky that I
had such and such a father. It doesn't seem in the least necessary."
But before the day was out Barbara thought best to tell Bubbles. He
came to her, with a slightly important air, which he did his best to
conceal, and said that he wished to go to the city for a few days,
"Sure the business isn't free untrammelled smoking?"
Bubbles was offended. "If I hadn't given you my word," he said, "you
might think that. I told you when we came that I might have to go back
any time on business. I got to go. Honest, Miss Barbara."
"Well, that settles it, Bubbles. But don't you think as long as I'm
trying to give you some of the things you've missed, that you might take
me a little more into your confidence?"
She maintained a discreet and serious countenance, although she wished
very much to laugh.
The boy studied her face gravely with grave eyes. "The ABC of my
business," he said presently, "is knowing who to trust. I know you won't
blab, Miss Barbara, 'r else I wouldn't tell you. There's a society in
New York City for putting down grafts and crimes. There's a rich man
back of it. And there's more kinds o' people working for it than you'd
guess in a year. There's even policemen workin' for it--"
"But it's their business to put down crime."
Bubbles shook his head sadly. "The chief business of the society is to
put down police graft in crime," he said. "But there's heaps o' side
businesses. Harry West, he's one of us. He's way high up. I'm way low
down. But when I'm called to do what I can, I got to do it. There's one
member younger'n me. And there's Fifth Avenue swells belongs, and
waiters, and druggists, and bootblacks, and men in hardware stores, and
"What sort of work do you have to do?"
"To go places and find out things."
"Why, then you're a detective, Bubbles."
A look of contempt swept into the child's face. "Detectives is in
business," he said, "for what they can get out of it. We're in it
because the house we live in is dirty and full of rats, and we want to
make it clean."
The boy had raised his voice a little, and Barbara found herself
thrilling to it.
"But, Bubbles," she objected, "you can't go to school and college and
keep up this work at the same time."
"If I get education," said Bubbles, "it's so's to be fitter for the work
when I come out. But I can't give the work up till the job I'm on is
finished. It wouldn't be square."
"Can you tell me the job?"
"I'm one o' them that's helpin' to get the old un where he's wanted."
"What old one?"
Barbara was very much taken aback. "The man I made the bust of?"
"We can send him to the chair any time. But what's the use? He knows
things that we got to know before we pass him up."
"But, Bubbles, how can you help?"
"Oh, I'm little. I can get into little places. They wouldn't want me if
I weren't of use."
"But I don't like the idea of your running down Blizzard, Bubbles."
"Why not, Miss Barbara? There's no one in the city that's _needed_ as
much as him."
"Aside from that, Bubbles--I'm willing to grant that--there's a reason
why I think you should have nothing to do with running him down."
"It's got to be an awful good one, Miss Barbara--not just good to you,
and maybe to me, but to men higher up."
"I think it would be good enough for the very highest up, Bubbles. Will
you take my word for it?"
"Yes, Miss Barbara. But _they_ won't take my word for your word."
"No," she said, "of course not."
She considered for a few moments. Then she said: "Bubbles, I'm going to
tell you my reason. I hope I'm not doing wrong. It's a serious thing for
me to tell you and for you to know. There is very little doubt but that
Blizzard is your father."
"Say that again, please," said Bubbles.
"Blizzard is probably your father."
Bubbles took the news very coolly. His eyes sparkled; but he made no
exclamations of surprise or chagrin. Instead he said: "_That_
accounts for it."
"Accounts for what?"
"Oncet he caught me in his house. He said the next time he'd skin me
alive. If I hadn't been his son he'd a skun me that time. Do you get me,
Miss Barbara? He's my father, sure. But--" Now chagrin, wonder, and
perplexity were written in Bubbles's face. "Why," he said, "it makes
everything different. He never done anything for me; but if he's
"You can't very well spy on him, can you, Bubbles? You've got to stand
aside and leave all that to others."
"I got to see the Head, Miss Barbara. I got to ask him."
"Who is the head, Bubbles?"
"I'd tell you in a minute, Miss Barbara, only we're all swore to tell no
one. But what he says goes with me. It's got to be that way, else we'd
never get nowhere."
Mr. Abe Lichtenstein looked up from a mass of writing. "So," he smiled,
"you got your few days off?"
"Mr. Lichtenstein," said Bubbles, his eyes big, his voice trembling, "an
awful thing has happened."
"You can tell me nothing bad but I can tell you something worse. What
"The old un is my father!"
"Yes," said Lichtenstein, "I have thought of that. You are sure?"
"I'm sure enough not to want to have anything more to do with huntin'
him. But that's for you to say. I do what you say."
"I won't ask you to go on," said Lichtenstein; "but you're still with
us, Bubbles? You're still for cleaning up the dirty house and making it
fit for human beings to live in?"
"As far as your father's concerned you'll be neutral."
"Meaning I won't do nothing against him, nor for him?"
The red-headed Jew nodded. "You won't do like Rose?"
Lichtenstein's face became very cold and grim. "She's gone over to him
body and soul. Bubbles, and heart and mind. For weeks she's fooled us
with nonsense--stuff they've made up together. Worse, she's broken every
oath she ever swore. Our strength was secrecy. Well, your father knows
the name of every agent in our society. Oh, he's got it all out of her!
"Does he know that you are--"
"Yes, confound him, he does. And my life is about as safe in this city
as that of the average cat in the Italian quarter. My life isn't the
important thing. It's what I've got in my head--cold facts. See all this
stuff? That's what's in my head going down on paper for the first time.
It's to guide the man that takes my place--to help him over some of the
hard places--three hundred sheets of it already, and only a week since
"Rose!" exclaimed Bubbles.
"There was none better--none smarter--till she fell in love--_fell_ in
"Does he know I'm one of us, Mr. Lichtenstein?"
"Why, yes. I suppose she'll have given even the children away." Mr.
Lichtenstein's eye roamed over the suite of rich rooms with their
elaborate gambling-paraphernalia. "Not much doing," he smiled, "since
Rose went over. The tip's out that I'm wanted. Nobody drops in for a
quiet game. Bubbles, you tell people when you're a man and I'm gone,
that I wasn't only a gambler. Tell 'em I took money from people who had
plenty but wouldn't take the trouble to do right with it, and tell 'em I
used that money to do right--to help make dirty things clean."
He turned and regarded the face of the black marble clock on the
mantel-piece. As he looked the face of the clock was violently
shattered, and so, but on a lower level, was a pane of glass in the
window immediately opposite.
Abe Lichtenstein fell face down upon his unfinished manuscript.
Then he began to speak in a quiet voice. "Never touched me. Bubbles.
Pull that cord at the right of the window. That will close the curtains.
Careful not to show yourself. The man that fired that shot thinks he got
me. I fell over to make him think so and to keep him from shooting
again. Now then"--the curtain had been drawn over the window with the
broken pane--"let's see what sort of a gun our friend uses, and then
perhaps we can spot our friend. Did you hear the shot?"
"No, sir. There was a noise just when the clock broke like when a steel
girder falls on the sidewalk."
"That noise was just _before_ the clock broke, Bubbles. And it was loud
enough to drown the noise of our friend's gun. Clever work, though, to
_have_ to pull the trigger at a given moment, and to make such a close
shot. Probably had his gun screwed in a vise."
Meanwhile Lichtenstein had extracted from the ruined clock a .45-calibre
bullet of nickel steel. A glance at the grooves made by the rifling of
the barrel from which it had been expelled caused him to raise his
colorless eyebrows and smile cynically.
"New government automatic, Bubbles," he said, "and the funny part of it
is they've only been issued to officers so far, and the factory hasn't
put 'em on sale yet."
"Must have been stole from an officer, then," said Bubbles.
"You steal her jewels from an actress," said Lichtenstein, "her mite
from the widow, its romances from the people, but you don't steal his
side arms from an American army officer. No. Somebody in the factory has
let the weapon that fired this slip out. It doesn't matter--it's just a
little link in the long chain."
He seated himself calmly at the table and set down in black and white
the fact that he had been very nearly murdered by a bullet fired from
the new army pistol. Then he began to gather up the sheets of his
"Now I wonder," he said, "where I can go to finish this document? I
don't want them to 'get' me until I've paved the way for the man that
comes after me. Now then--the secret passage isn't only for the wicked."
Kneeling on the clean hearth, Mr. Lichtenstein caused the ornamental
cast-iron back of the fireplace to swing outward upon a hinge. Reaching
a long arm into the disclosed opening, he unfastened and pushed ajar the
iron back of a fireplace in the next house.
Bubbles, crawling through first, found himself in a somewhat overdressed
pink and blue bedroom. The lace curtains were too elaborate. The room
was luxurious and vulgar. Among the photographs on the centre-table
reposed a champagne-bottle, three parts empty, and two glasses, in which
a number of flies were heavily crawling.
Lichtenstein, having carefully replaced the fire-backs, rose smiling,
and clapped a hand upon Bubbles's shoulder.
"Now then, Bubbles," he said, "push that bell-button by the door four
times, and we'll see what Mrs. Popple can do to get us out of this.
Never met Mrs. Popple? She's one of us, and at heart a good one."
The lady in question came swiftly in answer to the four rings. At first
sight she passed for a woman of hard and forbidding aspect; filmy laces
and a clinging kimona of rose-pink silk neither softened nor made
feminine the alabaster-colored face with its thin, straight mouth, heavy
hairy eyebrows, and clean-cut Greek nose. Only her costume and her hair,
indescribably fine, and indescribably yellow, betrayed that there were
follies in her nature. But the moment she spoke you liked her. She had a
slow, deep, beautiful voice, and the slowness of her speech was offset
by the fewness of her words.
"What's wrong, Abe?"
Lichtenstein explained briefly, and added: "Now how are we to get out of
this without being spotted and followed?"
"Easy," said Mrs. Popple. She went to a vast wardrobe painted white, and
pulled the creaking doors wide open. "Wedge the man into one dress,"
she said, "pad the boy into another. Send 'em off in a taxi. Now, boy.
Is this Bubbles? Pleased to meet you. I'm old enough to be your
The words were a command, and the boy, much embarrassed, began to take
off his coat.
"Get busy, Abe. Can take your own things along in a suit-case. I don't
look, see? I'm looking out duds for you. What's that? Razor? Find
everything in medicine-closet over wash-basin in bath-room."
Lichtenstein disappeared, and gave forth presently the rasping sounds of
a man shaving in a hurry. And in the meanwhile, always swift and sure,
Mrs. Popple initiated Bubbles into the ABC's of female attire.
"No trouble about a straight front for you," she chuckled, and gave a
sudden strong tug at the laces of Bubbles's corsets. He gasped, and the
tears came to his eyes.
"Mind to take little steps," she said, "and don't swing your arms." She
clasped a blond wig upon his head, and drew back to see the effect.
"Abe," she called, "she's a pippin!"
A moment later she frowned, almost savagely, laid her finger on her
lips, knelt at the fireplace, thrust her head far in and
Lichtenstein, one side of his face in lather, appeared at the bath-room
door. His eyes on the crouching figure of Mrs. Popple, he continued
calmly and methodically to shave himself.
After an interval the woman rose, and shook her head.
"Can't make out who's in there," she whispered. "Have Lizzie watch front
window see who goes out."
Lichtenstein nodded, washed the tag ends of lather from his face, and
proceeded in dead silence to dress himself as a lady of somewhat
doubtful age, looks, and position. But Bubbles would have made a very
pretty girl, if Mrs. Popple had not insisted on powdering his face till
it was as white as that of a clown.
"Won't do to be conspicuous," she explained.
Lichtenstein packed the things which he and Bubbles had taken off into a
suit-case marked "A.P." (Amelia Popple), and led the way downstairs. A
little later a taxicab drew up at the curb, and the two disguised
secret-service agents sauntered down the high steps of Mrs. Popple's
brownstone house, looking neither to the right nor to the left, and
"Where to?" said the driver, with rather a bold leer. The average lady
who descended or ascended Mrs. Popple's steps; was not considered
respectable even by taxi-drivers.
It had been agreed that Bubbles, having of the two the more feminine